Saturday, July 20, 2024

KC football returns promising core, eyeing playoffs

KC football returns promising core, eyeing playoffs

KAYENTA – The Kirtland Central football team is looking to return to the Class 4A state playoffs for the upcoming 2024 season.

After four consecutive trips to the playoffs the Broncos missed last year’s postseason with a 3-7 mark under head coach Travis Clary, who starts his third year at the helm.

KC football returns promising core, eyeing playoffs

Navajo Times | Quentin Jodie
Kirtland Central quarterback Bryle Matthews looks to pass the football to a teammate on Saturday at a 7-on-7 scrimmage against the Monument Valley Mustangs.

In his first year, Clary coached the Broncos to a 4-6 record.

“That’s the goal,” Clary said during the Monument Valley 7-on-7 scrimmage on Saturday. “I like what we have. Defensively, we have quite a few returners. Our linebacker corps are going to be three-year starters and we return most of our defensive linemen and secondary, so we’re looking pretty good.”

Offensively, the Clary-coached team has some key pieces returning, including senior tackle Nicolas Dodge, sophomore quarterback Chance Aspaas and senior Bryle Matthews, who played multiple positions.

“Nicolas Dodge is having a great offseason,” Clary said. “He’s going to be attending an individual camp at NAU, and Chance Aspaas is doing some stuff at Wake Forest this summer.”

“Of course, we got Bryle Matthews back,” he added. “We used him at running back, slot receiver and we used him at quarterback today, so he’s a big weapon to have. We also got other guys to come back in key areas, so we should be strong in those areas.”

Other key returners include seniors Deronte Tso, Bradley Franco, Justin Henry, Jesse Foutz and Nikolas Billie and junior Angel Acosta.

“We’re definitely going to be better this year,” Matthews said. “We all know what we have to do, and we all have that trust for one another, including the coaches.

“It’s nice that we’ve been playing together since we were sophomores, so we have our entire core group coming back,” he added. “This will be year three with this group, so I’m really excited for the upcoming season. You can really see some changes.”

Tso agreed while adding that the camaraderie they have will be the team’s biggest strength.

“We’re like brothers and we’re all playing for each other,” said Tso, who is projected to start at linebacker and receiver for the upcoming season. “We lost some key players and we’ve added some new players, but I think this team can go as far as we want. We just have to set our minds to it, and I really think we can be a playoff team.”

The Broncos enter the 2024 season in a revamped district, as the New Mexico Activities Association overhauled the state’s classifications for all sports for the next two-year block. KC will still compete in District 1-4A with county archrivals Aztec and Bloomfield.

The district, however, has added a slew of teams from central and northern New Mexico as Bernalillo, Espanola Valley, Grants, Moriarty and Taos will make up the eight-team district.

“It’s gonna be a lot of fun with a bigger district,” Clary said. “I’ve always been an advocate for having a bigger district. It’s gonna be very competitive. It’s gonna be a challenge, but this is what our boys want. Being in this new district will allow us to see where we’re gonna end up in the playoff picture a lot sooner.”

At Saturday’s 7-on-7 tourney, the Broncos went 2-2 in pool play action by beating Window Rock and MV, the host school. The Clary-coached team lost two games to Bradshaw Mountain as the Prescott Valley school had enough players to field two squads.

“One of the things we preach to the kids is we got to improve game to game, and I believe we did that,” Clary said. “You know, we threw in a couple of new coverages and the kids were able to adjust and adapt. They understood what we wanted, and they ran with it.

“We saw some progression with each game because our routes were getting cleaner and cleaner,” he added. “That is what you want to see from your team.”

In the single-elimination tournament, the Broncos came up short to MV, losing in the final seconds by a 18-12 count.

“They didn’t do anything different,” Acosta said of MV. “We just didn’t play as hard as we did in the first game. But it was still a close game; they just got us on that last drive.”

The Broncos will finish out the offseason workouts with a couple of 7-on-7 tournaments at Newcomb and Pagosa Springs, Colorado, later this month.

After the Fourth of July holiday, the Broncos will conduct two weeks of practice as the NMAA has allowed football programs around the state to do so within a two-month window that ends on July 20.

“We’re going to take advantage of that,” Clary said. “We’re going to get after it.”


About The Author

Quentin Jodie

Quentin Jodie is the Sports Editor for the Navajo Times. He started working for the Navajo Times in February 2010 and was promoted to the Sports Editor position at the end of summer in 2012. Previously, he wrote for the Gallup Independent. Reach him at qjodie@navajotimes.com

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